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2005-10-31 16:36:00
Embassy Tel Aviv
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						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 TEL AVIV 006246 


E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/12/2015

Classified By: Political Counselor Norman Olsen for reasons
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 TEL AVIV 006246


E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/12/2015

Classified By: Political Counselor Norman Olsen for reasons 1. (B) and

1. (C) Summary: HIRC professional staff members Matthew Zweig
and David Adams discussed Hamas and PLC elections, progress
on the Wolfensohn agenda, Israeli relations with Muslim
states, and UN issues with Israelis, the Wolfensohn team, and
USG officials during a visit to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem on
October 8-12. All of the staffdel's interlocutors expressed
concern about Hamas's participation in PLC elections and
predicted that Hamas will win between 20 and 40 percent of
the vote. Deputy National Security Adviser Eran Etzion
suggested a number of steps that the international community
could take to strengthen pro-democracy forces in the West
Bank and Gaza at the expense of the extremists. The
Wolfensohn team stressed the importance of reopening the
Rafah crossing and discussed the status of greenhouses in
Gaza and transit links between Gaza and the West Bank. The
staffdel heard divergent views on the status of
Israeli-Egyptian relations and received an update on the
GOI's efforts to expand contacts with Arab and other Muslim
states. The MFA briefed the staffdel on Israeli priorities
at the UN and the status of the MDA/ICRC issue. End summary.

Hamas and the PLC Elections

2. (C) Every Israeli and international official who spoke
with the staffdel expressed concern about Hamas's
participation in PLC elections and predicted that Hamas will
win between 20 and 40 percent of the vote in planned January
elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council. Deputy
National Security Adviser Eran Etzion said such a result will
result in a "complete halt to the peace process." He
described Hamas as "the only real threat to the PA," adding
that a strong showing by Hamas would legitimize the group.
He said Israel's position is that Hamas must abandon its
capabilities and intention to conduct terrorism and change
its charter if it wants to participate in the elections. He

cautioned that absent such steps, Israel "will not assist the
elections," which he added will make it "next to impossible"
to conduct a legitimate contest.

3. (C) The staffdel asked what the international community
could do to limit the influence of extremists and strengthen
pro-reform forces around President Abbas. Etzion replied
that -- while there is no unified GOI answer to that question
-- possible steps include:

-- issuing a statement by the G-8, Quartet or other forum
making it clear that groups advocating violence should not be
permitted to contest the elections;

-- presenting Hamas with a clear choice of remaining a
terrorist group or fully renouncing violence;

-- asking Hamas candidates to sign affidavits that they do
not support violence;

-- cutting off funding of all assistance projects in
municipalities governed by Hamas (MFA EU Director Shmuel
Ravel later said that Israel does not believe that the EU
would takes such steps);

-- fully supporting rapid progress on the Wolfensohn agenda;

-- pressuring Abbas to extract a higher price for Hamas's
participation in the PLC elections.

A member of the Wolfensohn team (but not any GOI officials)
also suggested that the GOI release additional prisoners to
help Abbas demonstrate that his government is making progress
on an issue important to the Palestinian public.

4. (C) The director of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and
Defense Committee, Rear Admiral Avriel Bar Joseph,
acknowledged that Knesset members are split on the question
of Hamas's participation in the PLC elections, with a small
number of MKs believing that such a step would moderate the
group. MFA Principal Deputy Legal Adviser Daniel Taub noted
that the Oslo accords do not mention armed groups, although
the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank
and Gaza Strip of September 28, 1995, prohibits candidates
who pursue the implementation of their aims by unlawful or
non-democratic means. He said the Palestinian Central
Election Commission should take action against Hamas.

5. (C) In response to questions by the staffdel, the
Wolfensohn team said that the security situation in Gaza has
improved, with the PA beginning a crackdown against the
public display of weaponry. Communications Advisor Khader
Abusway noted that PA forces are still weak and that Abbas
has traditionally shied away from confronting extremist
groups. MOD Political Director Amos Gilad said he believes
that Abbas is opposed to terror, but called him "a one-man
show." Gilad complained that the PA is "doing nothing" to
confront extremists. Etzion said he was "baffled" by Abbas's
inaction, attributing it in part to a lack of command and
control capability. IDF analyst Itai Brun disagreed, telling
staffdel that the main problem is the lack of political will
among the PA leadership. Abusway said a PA call for
disarmament would be equivalent to "political suicide."

6. (C) IDF analyst Brun maintained that Palestinian public
opinion has increased in importance since Arafat's death.
The views of "the street" give President Abbas a chance to
achieve his political agenda. Brun claimed that Abbas now
realizes that his goal of incorporating Hamas into the
political process is unlikely to succeed and that the group
intends to establish a parallel authority to the PA without
relinquishing its "jihadist identity." Abusway speculated
that Hamas's goal is to join the PA while separating its own
political and military wings.

7. (C) MFA EU Director Ravel said that the GOI has objected
to EU contacts with elected Hamas officials in the West Bank
and Gaza. He noted that the EU intends to increase its
assistance to the PA police and said that the GOI may make
its approval contingent upon a change in the EU's position on
Hamas. David Horovitz, editor-in-chief of the "Jerusalem
Post," claimed, however, that Israeli officials routinely
deal with Hamas officials on the local level. Note: The
Israeli press has carried a number of reports of such
contact. End note.

Post-Disengagement Scenarios,
the Barrier and Oslo Accords

8. (C) In each meeting, staffdel asked its hosts about
possible post-disengagement scenarios. None of the Israelis
could predict with any certainty what PM Sharon might do
next. Horovitz said that Sharon is looking at an interim
solution with the Palestinians because he does not believe a
final status agreement is possible in his lifetime. GOI
officials were unanimous in their belief that Sharon would
continue construction of the security/separation barrier.
MFA EU Director Ravel said that EU opposition to the barrier
had been limited to statements on the issue and that due to
the disengagement process, there is "no real pressure on
Israel today." MFA Legal Adviser Taub noted that there are
still several court cases on the Jerusalem portion of the
barrier pending in Israeli courts.

9. (C) The staffdel asked about Israeli views on the status
of the Oslo accords. Knesset staffer Bar Joseph said that
"people pick and choose" the sections of the Oslo agreements
that they like." Deputy NSA Etzion insisted that the GOI
does not see Oslo as a positive model for future agreements.
Taub said that his department has little doubt that the bulk
of the Oslo arrangements are still in force, noting that
neither side has publicly declared Oslo void and both sides
have referred to the accords in subsequent agreements.

-------------- --------------
Wolfensohn Agenda: Rafah, Greenhouses, Transit and Aid
-------------- --------------

10. (C) The Wolfensohn team stressed the political and
economic importance of re-opening the Rafah crossing as
quickly as possible. The U.S representative on the team said
that the two sides disagree on timing, but otherwise agree
that only people with Palestinian identity cards would cross
at Rafah and that Rafah would be monitored remotely by the
Israelis, with third-party observers and trainers on the
ground. Discussions are underway for handling imports at
Kerem Shalom and exports at Rafah, he added, but are not
finalized. MOD PolDir Amos Gilad said he had held talks with
the PA on October 9-10 about Rafah.

11. (C) The staffdel asked the Wolfensohn team about the
status of the greenhouses in Gaza. The U.S. representative
replied that 80 percent of the Israeli-owned Gaza greenhouses
had been purchased and transferred to the PA; ten percent of
this total had been severely damaged in the
post-disengagement chaos, and another 25 percent was lightly
damaged. As a result, approximately one-half of the
pre-disengagement greenhouses are currently operational.

12.(C) Lynn Hastings, the UN representative on Wolfensohn's
team, said the temporary solution for Palestinian movement
between Gaza and the West Bank is likely to take the form of
Israeli-escorted bus convoys. She noted that USAID is
funding a study on longer-term solutions, including possible
rail and/or road connections.

13. (C) Hastings said that the Wolfensohn team has identified
USD 750 million in assistance available for quick impact
projects focused on job creation and infrastructure
improvements. A U.S. Treasury official added that the
Wolfensohn team hopes that regional donors would assist the
PA with its budgetary shortfall. Finance Minister Salam
Fayyad will soon travel to the Gulf states in search of
funding to close the PA's USD 250 million budget gap, she
said. Her colleague Ramsey Jamil cautioned donors that
planned international assistance levels might be too low
considering the increase in the Palestinian population. MFA
EU Director Ravel noted that the EU plans to double its
assistance to the Palestinians next year from 250 million to
500 million Euros. In addition, Ravel said, EU members
states donate nearly 500 million Euros of assistance, making
total European contribution to the PA approximately one
billion Euros and increasing European influence accordingly.
Senior Researcher Ramsey Jamil noted that the utility of
large-scale economic assistance is limited, because such aid
"couldn't happen in a vacuum" absent substantial reforms in
the PA.

-------------- --------------
Improving Relations with Egypt and Other Muslim States
-------------- --------------

14. (C) Knesset staffer Bar Joseph claimed that opposition to
the Border Guard agreement by committee Chairman Yuval
Steinitz had been key in prohibiting the deployment of
Egyptian troops throughout the Sinai, a move Steinitz
believed would have violated the Camp David accords. In the
end, however, he claimed that the committee's view is that
the Border Guard deployment is irrelevant, because Israel has
already agreed to a seaport and airport and "there is no need
to guard the window when you have already opened the door."
MOD PolDir Gilad claimed that relations with Egypt had
improved as a result of disengagement and the Border Guard
agreement. He noted that the presence of 45 Egyptian
advisers in Gaza helps the PA, but complained that the
Egyptians give Hamas the same treatment as Fatah. He
expressed concern about the safety of the Egyptian advisers,
noting that a recent Israeli airstrike had targeted an
extremist standing 20 meters from where an Egyptian general
was passing by.

15. (C) Bar Joseph acknowledged that "there are (Knesset)
members ... who see Egypt as a threat." He urged the USG to
switch its military assistance to Egypt to economic projects,
questioning why the Egyptians need advanced U.S. aircraft and
weapons systems. MOD PolDir Gilad dismissed the idea that
Egypt is preparing to attack Israel, but echoed Knesset
concerns about the modernization of Egyptian forces and
requested that the USG continue to support the maintenance of
Israel's qualitative military edge. The staffdel noted that
the Congress had urged Egypt to justify its purchases by
presenting a threat analysis and strategy.

16. (C) Bar Joseph complained that Egypt is actively
campaigning against Israeli participation in international
organizations. MFA EU Director Ravel echoed this complaint
and urged the USG to exert influence in Cairo to change
Egypt's attitude towards cooperation with Israel. MFA Chief
of Staff Yaki Dayan complained that Egypt is discouraging
other Arab states from establishing relations with Israel.

17. (C) Dayan, Bar Joseph, and Gilad separately praised
cooperation with Jordan. Gilad said that the Jordanians "are
really protecting our eastern border" and urged the USG to
provide additional support to Amman. Dayan highlighted the
importance of the Qualifying Industrial Zones (QIZs) and said
that King Abdullah would visit Israel in November. In a
discussion with the staffdel on Lebanon, Ravel said that the
GOI had officially protested a meeting by EU ambassadors with
the Hizballah water minister in the new government. He
described France as the main hindrance to a more active EU
role countering Hizballah.

18. (C) Dayan told the staffdel that he and MFA Director
General Ron Prosor had toured Arab states prior to
disengagement. He said that Gulf states, such as Qatar and
the UAE, are willing to do business with Israel behind closed
doors and speculated that a combination of commercial
interests, fear of Iran, and USG pressure had helped change
their long-standing opposition to contact with Israel. Dayan
added that Maghreb countries are more concerned about public
opinion, Al-Qaeda, and concrete benefits from ties to Israel.
He noted that Israel has separate dialogues with Pakistan,
Indonesia, and Malaysia. He expressed appreciation for
Congressional letters to Muslim leaders urging them to
improve relations with Israel and requested that the U.S. to
"use any possible leverage" in the future.

19. (C) The Israelis were not optimistic about developments
in Syria. Etzion said that that "something has to give" in
Damascus, but the GOI has no information on who might
potentially succeed Asad. Gilad and IDF analyst Brun echoed
these views in separate meetings. According to Brun, the GOI
believes Syria was responsible for the Hariri assassination.

20. (C) Bar Joseph stressed Knesset concerns that the Iranian
nuclear program will be problematic for U.S. forces in Iraq,
lead to the fall of regimes in Jordan and Egypt, and increase
the freedom of operation for terrorists. He insisted that
the Iranians need to receive the same message that Libya did,
i.e., the international community will not tolerate a
nuclear-weapons program in the country. Etzion said that the
Russians had recently told NSA Giora Eiland that they are
skeptical that international pressure can prevent Iran from
achieving its goal of developing nuclear weapons.

Israeli Priorities in the UN/Status of MDA

21. (C) MFA Acting Office Director for UN Political Affairs
Gershon Kedar told the staffdel that Israel's main agenda in
the UN is to move from being a "one-issue country" to a
"normal" member. The GOI is pushing to fill its quota of
Israeli employees throughout the UN system, especially in the
peacekeeping secretariat, and to join all WEOG consultative
groups. The GOI is seeking a critical mass of co-sponsors
for its Holocaust remembrance and education resolution to
deter unwelcome amendments. Kedar said the GOI will change
tactics on anti-Israel resolutions, focusing on obtaining
more support to "reform" anachronistic Palestinian-focused
organizations -- particularly the Division for Palestinian
Rights, the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable
rights of the Palestinian People, and the Special Committee
to Investigate Israeli Human Rights Practices. He noted that
the GOI is considering withholding the portion of its annual
contribution that goes towards funding these committees.
Kedar and MFA Legal Adviser Taub said that the GOI would like
to see UNRWA devolve many of its activities to the PA.
Israel would also like to see UNIFIL ended, and will lobby
behind the scenes for substantial cuts to UNIFIL troop

22. (C) MFA Chief of Staff Dayan said that the Arab League
and certain (unnamed) PA officials are playing an unhelpful
role in Israel's efforts to resolve the MDA/ICRC issue. Taub
said Arab opposition to the MDA had changed from objections
about the symbol to complaints about where MDA operates.
Claiming that "the ball is in the Swiss court," Taub
requested that the USG tell the Swiss that MDA has made
enough concessions and that the issue should be resolved on
its own merits and not as part of the overall peace process.

GOI Welcomes Resumption of Strategic Dialogue

23. (C) MFA Director for U.S. Legislative Affairs Eyal Sela
noted that 20 percent of Congress -- 86 representatives and
20 Senators -- have visited Israel in the past year. He
added that the MFA has lobbied other parts of the Israeli
government to "do whatever is needed" to restore ties damaged
by Israeli defense exports to China. The staffdel stressed
the bipartisan nature of concern on this issue. MOD PolDir
Gilad welcomed the resumption of a strategic dialogue with
the USG. MFA Chief of Staff Dayan said the GOI plans to use
the dialogue to brief the USG on Israel's relations with each
Muslim country, focusing on areas where U.S. pressure might

24. (U) Staffdel Zweig/Adams were unable to clear this cable
before departing the region.

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